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Morrish Bible Dictionary

John the Baptist

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Son of Zacharias, priest of the order of Abia, or Abijah (1 Chronicles 24:10 ), and of Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron, born when they were both old. The conception was foretold by the angel Gabriel, who announced that John was to be a Nazarite, and should be filled with the Holy Ghost from his birth. His mission was also foretold: in the spirit and power of Elias he would be the forerunner of Christ, and would call the people to repentance, according to the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3 . All that is recorded of his early life is "the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel." Luke 1:80 .

When he began his ministry he is described as having on "raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins: and his meat was locusts and wild honey." He preached in the wilderness, calling on the people to repent, for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. The people went out to him, and were baptised of him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. Matthew 3:1-6 . A godly remnant morally apart from the nation was thus prepared in spirit for the Lord. With these (the excellent in the earth, Psalm 16 ) the Lord Jesus identified Himself.

To the Pharisees and the Sadducees he was especially severe, calling them a 'generation of vipers' ( Matthew 3:7 ), but in Luke the multitude are so designated, for all must flee from the wrath to come, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance. The axe was laid to the root of the tree. There was One coming with the winnowing fan, who would divide the wheat from the chaff.

When the religious authorities at Jerusalem sent to John to ask who he was, he declared that he was not the Christ, nor Elias, nor 'that prophet.' Deuteronomy 18:15,18 . He was "the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord," as Isaiah had prophesied. John 1:19-23 . The Lord, in speaking of John, said, "Elias is indeed come," Mark 9:13 , which seems to clash with John 1:21 ; another passage however explains it: "If ye will receive it, this is Elias which was for to come." Matthew 11:14 . He had come in the spirit and power of Elias, as foretold by Gabriel; and he was Elias to those who received him and who afterwards followed the Lord, as Andrew and another in John 1:40 .

So far we have considered John's official place as the forerunner of Christ, but in John's gospel the Baptist's testimony is given to the Lamb of God. He also adds, "I knew him not," but he had been told that He upon whom he saw the Holy Spirit descend and remain was the Baptiser with the Holy Ghost; and he adds, "I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God." He may have known Jesus in a natural way, but his knowing Him as Son of God was by a divinely-given testimony. John proclaimed Jesus as "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world;" and in the hearing of two of his own disciples he said, "Behold the Lamb of God." Jesus was to be the object of their hearts, and they followed Him. Afterwards, when John was told that Jesus was baptising, and that all the people were going to Him, he gave a remarkable answer: "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease." John was the friend of the bridegroom. The Lord said that among those born of women no one was greater than John; but the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than he, because the latter was in a new dispensation, John being connected with the law and the prophets of the old dispensation. Matthew 11:11-13 .

While in prison John's faith or patience seems in measure to have failed him, and he sent two of his disciples to the Lord with the question, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" He evidently had not apprehended the humiliation and rejection of the Messiah, and expected to have been delivered from prison by the power which he knew had been exercised in grace by the Lord. The Lord wrought various miracles while John's disciples were there, and bade them tell him what they had seen and heard, adding, "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me." Luke 7:19-23 .

It was because of John's faithfulness in reproving the sins of Herod Antipas that he had been by him cast into prison. This led to his death through Salome and her guilty mother. John's work was done; he was faithful unto death. Mark 6:14-29 .


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Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'John the Baptist '. Morrish Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/mbd/j/john-the-baptist.html. 1897.

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